A recent survey by Ipsos on behalf of Global News raised a lot of eye brows when it comes to Canadian thoughts on drinking and driving. One quarter of Canadians surveyed admitted they drank too much before driving, and almost half of the youngest group polled thought it was perfectly fine to drink at least two and a half drinks before driving.
Those numbers are startling because they show that there’s so much work to do to change attitudes toward drinking and driving, but the one of the most shocking revelations from the survey is that almost half of Canadians think the legal blood alcohol limit should be raised from .08.
Think about that for a second: half of the Canadians surveyed believe that legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08, a recognized threshold that you can be charged with drinking and driving in both Canada, the United States, and other parts of the world, should be raised to something higher before you can be charged.
In other words, they’d like to get a lot drunker before they can be charged with drinking and driving. Although there was no suggestion as to what the acceptable threshold may be, it could be hypothesized that they’d like to see it at .10 or .12 before they could be legally charged.
Here are the problems with that line of thinking:
.08 is actually too low for drinking and driving
Turns out that .08 BAC is on the high side compared to some other countries. Take European countries for example: Italy, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland all have a .05 BAC as the legal limit. That might be because they realize that there’s no safe amount of alcohol before you get behind the wheel of a car.
.08 is not an arbitrary number
According to responsibility.org, there is over thirty years of science behind the selection of .08 as the legal blood alcohol limit, and the data backs up the fact that virtually all drivers are impaired once they reach the .08 threshold.
When you’re that drunk you have trouble with vision, judgement, and coordination, and that’s why you see so many drunk drivers swerving in lanes, braking abruptly, and hitting the gas pedal before they’re pulled over by police.
The problem isn’t arresting these drunk drivers; it’s what can happen if they’re not arrested in time. Drunk driving crashes aren’t just caused by people with BAC over .10, .12, and .15, and people die each year because someone thought they were fine to drive after having one or two drinks. These people could be at the .08 threshold or even lower and that crash still happened.
The fact that the legal BAC is .08 is one of the reasons why there are now warn range violations as part of impaired driving laws across Canada. When you’re stopped for drunk driving and you blow between .05 and .799, you can still be charged with a warn range violation.
The suspensions for warn range might not be as long and the penalties not as harsh, but with a few warn range violations under your belt you can still end up with an ignition interlock to stop you from drinking any amount of alcohol and getting behind the wheel.
Canadians would be much safer while driving if Canada made the legal BAC even lower, and if the trend in other countries is any indication, that could very well happen.